Trades #11-15 of the 25 Worst Trades in the modern history of the Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadians have a long and storied history in the NHL. They have won many Stanley Cups, and a large number of Hall of Fame hockey players have worn their colours. However, they have also made their share of outright bone-headed trades (the bulk of which occurred in the 1990s and early 2000s), which has resulted in their failing to win a Stanley Cup victory in 20 years (a drought Leafs fans would happily accept instead of our 46-and-counting tally). I have taken a look at Montreal’s trades in the Modern Era of the NHL (post-1967), and compiled a list of the 25 Worst Montreal Canadiens Trades of All Time. One thing to mention as a qualifier: I largely ignored whomever the Canadiens’ trading partner selected with the draft pick received, as there is no guarantee the Canadiens would have chosen that player. I put the most weight on ex-Habs who went on to great things (post-Montreal), Montreal draft picks that didn’t pan out, and the failure to make the most of players/assets in the long-term. With that, here are the trades that ranked #11-15.
#15: Montreal trades Alex Campbell, Denis DeJordy, Glenn “Chico” Resch, and Future Considerations (Germain Gagnon on June 26th, 1972) to the New York Islanders for a 1973 2nd Pick (Glenn Goldup) and cash (June 6th, 1972)
I have no idea how much cash changed hands here, but it can’t possible have been enough to balance out this deal. Glenn Goldup played a grand total of 18 games for Montreal over three seasons, registering exactly one assist. He was then dealt to the L.A. Kings for a pair of draft picks (neither of which panned out). Two of the players sent to the Islanders didn’t amount to anything either: Denis DeJordy never suited up for New York, eventually playing 25 games for Detroit before leaving the NHL. And Alex Campbell never even made the NHL. Germain Gagnon at least managed to put in two seasons in New York; he scored 12 goals and 41 points in ’72-73, then dropped 22 points in ’73-74. He was then dealt to Chicago in a trade that did nothing for the Islanders. But the true gem of this deal was one Chico Resch. He was a major part of New York’s ascension in the NHL, and he got a Stanley Cup ring with the Isles in 1980. Unfortunately he was then traded, missing out on the next three Stanley Cups New York won from 1981-1983; instead, he spent the next six seasons with the sad sack Colorado Rockies/New Jersey Devils. Resch spent eight seasons in New York, typically playing just over half of his team’s games. In 282 games he went 157-69-57 with a stellar 2.56 goals-against average. He was solid-if-unspectacular in the playoffs, going 17-17 in 38 appearances, but still posting a very solid 2.49 GAA. After losing the #1 spot to Billy Smith, Resch spent the rest of his career playing for the woeful Rockies/Devils before getting in a final year-and-change with the Philadelphia Flyers (he fell just short of another Stanley Cup ring, losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the 1987 Finals). In all, Resch played another 289 games after leaving New York. Granted he likely wouldn’t have been anything more than a back-up goalie for Montreal during the 1970s, but he more than proved himself not only as a capable goaltender, but as a pretty darned good one.
#14: Montreal trades Danny Grant, Claude D. Larose, and Future Considerations (Bob Murdoch on May 25, 1971) to the Minnesota North Stars for a 1972 1st Round Pick (Dave Gardner), Future Considerations (Marshall Johnston) and cash (June 10th, 1968)
The Habs’ pretty much made a habit of stockpiling first-round picks from the 1967 expansion franchises in exchange for immediate roster help. This one saw them trade for a 1972 draft pick in 1968; a four-year wait! The Canadiens ended up picking Dave Gardner, who promptly… did nothing. He scored 13 points in 36 games over two seasons with Montreal, before they flipped him to St. Louis for a first round pick that became Doug Risebrough (thus redeeming themselves slightly). Gardner played another 291 games post-Montreal, scoring 167 points. Marshall Johnston never even suited up for the Canadians; he was sold to California, and he scored 61 points in 202 games post-Montreal. Not much to write home about. On the other hand, the North Stars made out quite well. Bob Murdoch is a weird case… he was traded to Minnesota three years after the deal to complete the Future Considerations, and then re-claimed by Montreal two weeks later in the Intra-League Draft. Just a very odd series of moves. Claude Larose spent two seasons with the North Stars. He scored 25 goals in 62 games in ’68-69, but fell off to 24 goals and 47 points the following season. He was traded back to Montreal for Bobby Rousseau; Larose played another 533 games (scoring 256 points) after leaving Minnesota, while Rousseau didn’t do much. Danny Grant however was the star here. He spent six seasons in Minnesota, clearing 30 goals three times and scoring 29 goals in two others. He had five seasons in the 57-67 point range. He was traded to Detroit for Henry Boucha; while the trade did nothing for Minnesota, Grant exploded for a 50-goal with Red Wings before fading away. In all, he scored 176 goals and 353 points in 463 games for the North Stars, and then added another 84 goals and 175 points in 250 games post-Minnesota. That’s a pretty long and healthy offensive career to walk away from, especially when you consider that the Habs got a total of 36 games out of it. Even Larose by himself would have made this trade a loss, but Grant easily makes it a dud.
#13: Montreal trades Lyle Odelein to the New Jersey Devils for Stephane Richer (August 22nd, 1996)
As I mentioned in my analysis of the Darcy Tucker trade (Trade #21), Richer was the last Montreal Canadiens player to score 50 goals in a season (in ’87-88, and again in ’89-90). Here we are some 23 years later (at the end of the 2012-13 regular season) and Richer is still the most recent 50-goal man for Montreal. Just before the start of the ’91-92 season, Richer was traded to New Jersey in a deal that brought Kirk Muller to Montreal. Having experienced Leafs fandom when Wendel Clark was re-acquired, I can only imagine similar sentiment at a returning hero when Richer returned prior to the ’96-97 season. He clearly wasn’t a 50-goal man anymore, but he performed adequately; he scored 22 goals and 46 points in 63 games. He was then held without a point in five games during the playoffs. 14 games (and nine points) into the ’97-98 season, and Richer was dealt to Tampa Bay in a deal that also squandered Tucker. In exchange for Richer, the Devils received Lyle Odelein, a tough stay-at-home defenseman. Odelein was a terrific part of New Jersey’s blueline, spending just under four seasons there. In 285 games he had 86 points, but the real story was his solid +23 rating (he was positive in three of four season) and his 499 penalty minutes (100+ each season). He also added 9 points in 23 playoff games. Unfortunately for Lyle, he was dealt to Phoenix at the trade deadline for Deron Quint and a draft pick, so he just missed out on a Stanley Cup ring with the Devils in 2000. Odelein signed as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets, becoming an early hero and leader for that franchise. He played another 351 NHL games post-New Jersey, registering 71 points and 450 penalty minutes (although he was -53 playing for weaker teams). While Odelein did spend a fair amount of time in Montreal, the Habs missed out on 636 NHL games from a dependable blueliner in exchange for 77 games from a past-his-prime returning hero. And I hate to admit it, but it sounds an awful lot like the Wendel Clark deal (which cost Toronto Kenny Jonsson). So I sympathize.
#12: Montreal trades Mike Ribeiro and a 2008 6th Round Pick (Matt Tassone) to the Dallas Stars for Janne Niinimaa and a 2007 5th Round Pick (Andrew Conboy) (September 30th, 2006)
Mike Ribeiro was a fairly talented centre, albeit it one who lacked size and a physical game. In his third season in Montreal (his first as a full-time roster member), he broke out for 20 goals and 65 points, but fell to 16 goals and 51 points the following season. He was then traded to the Dallas Stars. Janne Niinimaa was an absolute waste in Montreal; in 41 games, he was -13 with three assists and 36 PIM. He then left for Europe, spending the remainder of his career in the Swiss league and in Sweden. Andrew Conboy never even played in the NHL; then again, neither did Matt Tassone. However, Ribeiro became a valuable player for the Stars. He spent six seasons in Dallas, and scored at least 18 goals and 53 points in every season. In fact, he had three 70+ point seasons, including a high of 83 in ’07-08. His +/- was usually close to even, and he had a fantastic playoff run in 2008 (scoring 17 points in 18 games). All told, he scored 123 goals and 407 points in 461 games, along with a +16 rating for Dallas. He also recorded 20 points in 25 playoff games. He was traded to Washington, where he scored 49 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. He has been just below the point-per-game mark in seven seasons since leaving Montreal, and he could have been a valuable offensive presence down the middle for the Canadiens. Instead, they got a half-season from Janne Niinimaa. SO close.
#11: Montreal trades Pavel Valentenko, Ryan McDonagh, Doug Janik and Christopher Higgins to the New York Rangers for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto (August 20th, 1992)
In 2008, Scott Gomez signed a monster contract with the New York Rangers: $51.5 million over seven years. Chris Drury also signed a big deal (five years, $35.25 million) the same day. Unfortunately for Rangers’ fans, neither signing panned out. Gomez’s cap hit was substantial, a fact made worse by his declining production: he scored 70 points in his first season, and then 58 in his second. He only totaled 32 goals for New York over two seasons. So when Montreal became a willing trade partner, New York jumped at the chance. He scored 12 goals and 59 points for the Habs in ’09-10, but dropped to 7 goals and 38 points in ’10-11 (along with a -15 rating); he then fell even further to just 2 goals and 11 points in 38 games (along with a -9 rating) in ’11-12. All told, he had just 21 goals (and a -23 rating) in 196 games as a Canadien, scoring just 108 points in the process. He was slightly better in the playoffs (18 points in 26 games), but that didn’t matter; his cap hit handcuffed the franchise. They bought him out after the 2012-13 lockout; he joined the San Jose Sharks, where he scored 2 goals and 15 points in 39 games for San Jose. Michael Busto has yet to play in the NHL. Tom Pyatt didn’t do much for the Habs, scoring 12 points in 101 games. He is now with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
You’d think the Canadiens would have received something of value for taking on this salary, maybe giving up a minor player in return. But if they were smart enough to do that, do you really think this trade would be just on the outskirts of the Top 10? Doug Janik never suited up for the Rangers, and Pavel Valentenko never made the NHL. Chris Higgins scored 14 points in 55 games before being flipped to the Calgary Flames with Ales Kotalik for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust. But the real gem was Ryan McDonagh. He was a blue-chip prospect who has since blossomed into a valuable part of the Rangers’ blueline. He scored 9 points in 40 games in ’10-11, and was +16. He then improved to 32 points and +25 in ’11-12, and kept up that pace this season: he had 19 points in 47 games along with a +13 rating in the lockout-shortened ’12-13 season. Essentially boiling down to Gomez for McDonagh, this trade is a dud even when ignoring the horrible ramifications the Gomez contract had for Montreal’s salary cap flexibility. Why the Canadiens were willing to give up a quality prospect for a forward who was clearly never going to live up to his contract is beyond me. But then I’m not an NHL GM, so what do I know?
Into the breach… the next part of this series will see us delve into the first half of the Top 10 worst transactions in Canadiens history. Things will literally go from bad to worse; click here to check out trades #6-10!